Olson Lab

Dr. Olson is Professor of Virology in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology and a member of the Center for Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases (CVID). Dr. Olson is an internationally recognized leader in mosquito transgenics and innate anti-viral RNA interference (RNAi) pathways used by mosquitoes to modulate arbovirus infections. The Olson lab works primarily with Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and the arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses) they transmit such as dengue 1-4, Zika, and chikungunya viruses.

A major research goal of the Olson laboratory has been to identify molecular strategies for interfering with the replication of arboviruses in mosquitoes. Using an RNAi approach, his team was the first lab to develop genetically modified Ae. aegypti refractory to an arbovirus. His group is currently engineering Ae. aegypti to express anti-viral effector genes targeting Zika virus in the context of a Crispr-cas9 genetic drive system. The gene drive system is designed to generate super-Mendelian inheritance of the anti-viral gene initially in Ae. aegypti populations. Other important goals of the research are to identify components of the RNAi pathways in mosquitoes and fully characterize important arbovirus-mosquito defense interactions. Dr. Olson’s lab has also conducted research associated with alphavirus-induced pathogenesis in mouse models and alphavirus-based gene expression in mosquitoes and mice. Current collaborations outside CSU are with Drs. Alexander Franz (Univ. Missouri/Columbia) and Malcolm Fraser (Univ. Notre Dame).

research project

Engineering resistance to Zika virus in Aedes aegypti for Cas9 driven population modification

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus. Aedes aegypti is the primary mosquito vector of ZIKV, DENV and CHIKV and is found throughout the Americas. We propose to generate genetically modified Ae. aegypti that stably express anti-viral transgenes and CRISPR/Cas9 drive to efficiently spread ZIKV-refractory phenotypes in caged populations as a prelude to spreading virus resistance in field populations.


Control of RNA viruses in mosquito cells through the acquisition of vDNA and endogenous viral elements.

Tassetto M, Kunitomi M, Whitfield ZJ, Dolan PT, Sánchez-Vargas I, Garcia-Knight M, Ribiero I, Chen T, Olson KE, Andino R.
ELife. 2019 Oct 17;8. pii: e41244. doi: 10.7554/eLife.41244.

Infection with mosquito-borne alphavirus induces selective loss of dopaminergic neurons, neuroinflammation and widespread protein aggregation.

Bantle CM, Phillips AT, Smeyne RJ, Rocha SM, Olson KE, Tjalkens RB.
NPJ Parkinsons Dis. 2019 Sep 13;5:20. doi: 10.1038/s41531-019-0090-8. eCollection 2019.

The Widespread Occurrence and Potential Biological Roles of Endogenous Viral Elements in Insect Genomes.

Blair CD, Olson KE, Bonizzoni M.
Curr Issues Mol Biol. 2019 Jun 6;34:13-30. doi: 10.21775/cimb.034.013. [Epub ahead of print]

Induction of RNA interference to block Zika virus replication and transmission in the mosquito Aedes aegypti.

Magalhaes T, Bergren NA, Bennett SL, Borland EM, Hartman DA, Lymperopoulos K, Sayre R, Borlee BR, Campbell CL, Foy BD, Olson KE, Blair CD, Black W 4th, Kading RC.
Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2019 Aug;111:103169. doi: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2019.05.004. Epub 2019 May 17.

Analysis of Salivary Glands and Saliva from Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti Infected with Chikungunya Viruses.

Sanchez-Vargas I, Harrington LC, Black WC 4th, Olson KE.
Insects. 2019 Feb 1;10(2). pii: E39. doi: 10.3390/insects10020039.

more publications


Kenneth Olson, Ph.D.

Lab Principal Investigator (PI)

Karla Saavedra Rodriguez

Research Scientist I

Irma Sanchez-Vargas

Research Scientist I

Susi Bennett

Research Associate IV

contact information

Lab: Center for Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases room 130

Office: Center for Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases room 180

(970) 491-8604